Thursday, July 14, 2011

On making photo books - lesson learned in SoFoBoMo 2011

Yesterday I posted a few words about my SoFoBoMo 2011 project, a photo book titled Treasure Pond. It is available at the SoFoBoMo site, and also as a Blurb version.

I have ordered a printed book from Blurb, but it will take some days until I can judge the quality. Last year it was rather good.

Here are some lessons learned which I hope will benefit others, either doing a SoFoBoMo project or doing a photo book for other reasons. These are a kind of addendum to my instructions on making photo books. I'll update that document at some point. It was really useful to have such notes from last year to help to make a photo book.

First, one should think about the page size, or at least the aspect ratio of the pages. I forgot to check whether the service supports 25 cm x 20 cm format, and it didn't, so I couldn't use the service for printing my PDF file.

(As a sidenote, I probably would have needed to change the book format in Pages anyway, to help in getting the material positioned just right on the pages, as the service seems to trim more out of the page edges than

Related to the above point, one should think carefully whether you need a PDF file, or a printed book, or both. For SoFoBoMo, a PDF versio is sufficient, but I like to have a printed book to browse, so I need both. But this complicates matters.

If you don't need a PDF file, then there are a multitude of web sites and programs (iPhoto etc.) to make a photo book - plenty of choices for both a beginner and for a professional.

The same applies to PDF files as well, as long as you think carefully about the technical issues, such as maximun file size (15 MB in SoFoBoMo) and similar stuff. Also, when you are not limited to a physical paper size, you can get creative with the PDF format.

However, when you need both a PDF file and a printed book, you need to proceed with caution. The mistake I made was not looking at all the little details when testing out the service.

I uploaded my last year SoFoBoMo PDF file to the site, but didn't try out the whole workflow all the way to ordering a book. And so I didn't realize there was a mismatch between the paper size (aspect ratio) of my PDF file and the selection of book formats which supports.

And so when I had my new photo book ready as a PDF file, I got stumped at the end. But all turned out ok, because I had Blurb as a second option, well tested. A bit of extra work only.

Any other lessons? Well, it depends on what you aim for. My photo books are rather modest in scope and ambition, like a snapshot of work-in-progress captured on book pages. Thus, I have tried to make the workflow as easy as possible, and as automated as possible.

Maybe next year I'll try something more involved, like different formats for different pages of the book, and such things. But for now, I like this approach as it doesn't need much extra work. I just drop the photographs where they belong on the pre-formatted pages.

Well, here is one little invention I used this year. When I had the initial set of 362 photographs in iPhoto, I divided the photographs into iPhoto events, trying to categorize them into chapters for the book. This worked well, although I changed the plan a couple of times.

But typesetting was much easier after the division into events was done. This helped tremendously in eliminating the organizing work in Pages, and speeded up the work quite a lot. Of course, I had to make corrections in the plan, but nothing really drastic.

How it is with you, are you making a SoFoBoMo 2011 project, or a photo book for another reason?

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